Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015-10 Los Alamos, White Rock New Mexico


Northern New Mexico
White Rock
Los Alamos
Bandelier NP

white clouds billowing up before sunset

Campground:  White Rock City Rv Park.  Next to the visitor center.  Most web sites still list it as free.  Now costs $20 per night, 14 limit.   16 rv sites with Elect.  Water and dump available.  This is a paved parking lot style campsite.

Campground:  Ohkay Casino.  Dry Camping.  Free.

I’m ending up my stay in the Cochiti Pueblo and Santa Fe area.  I’ve discovered that while I travel during my 8 months on the road, that staying at a campground for 10 days or more is ideal for exploring an area and having some down time to just enjoy the area before heading on to the next site.

Cochiti Pueblo
One of my camping neighbors also owns an Open Range 5th wheel camper.  Theirs is about 10 years old and is holding up quite well.  The wife had to come over to see if I liked my Open Range.  This is something Rv-ers often do when meeting other campers with the same manufacturer.  It’s a way to compare any issues and check on the satisfaction level.  Well after they’re owning an Open Range for 10 years  and my owning mine for 2 years, the satisfaction level hovers around a 10 for both parties.  We compared the improvements made to the Open Range in those ten years and reveled in the quality of the product.

But I was more interested in the story behind their getting a camper.  As it turns out, the wife was diagnosed with celiac disease caused by a reaction to gluten found in wheat, barley and rye.  Not a good thing for the wife who was a pasty chef.  It seemed like her life was crushing around her all at once.  Having to change careers and her diet overnight.  Her husband came to the rescue by getting her interested in camping…. Showing her the Open Range camper they now own and a whole new life opened up for them.  What an inspiration.

Ekk, disaster, what to do?  You know we all seem to rely on our computers, smart phones and other electronic devices for just about everything these days.  Well, the other day I was going to check on a few things and suddenly all of my icons on the front screen of my computer disappeared.  You know the ones you use to click to open a program like Explorer or Google Chrome.  Gone.  Then I went into my folders looking for my Excel Spreadsheets and the whole folder was gone, gone, gone.  Well, to make a long story short and one that has nothing to do with camping or Rv travel, I had a brilliant idea a couple days later.  Check the “recycle bin”.  Somehow, those items all ended up getting deleted.  Fortunately, Microsoft Windows puts everything deleted in the recycle bin and it has an ‘UNDO’ button.  Yippee!  I got my computer back to normal.  How that all happened in the first place is a real mystery.  Guess I have to blame it on happy fingers dashing across the keyboard and hitting some combination of keys that caused the disappearance of all those files.

Or not, hmmmm.  The following day and I’ve discovered that I’ve lost all my photos for the past 5 months that were stored in my “pictures” folder.  A big loss especially since it contained the full size images.  I at least do have copies on Picasa, but they are smaller versions of the originals.

Distance traveled:  73 miles

exploring an old section of route 66

We’re coming to the Memorial Day weekend and I have no reservations.  But after driving the 73 miles to White Rock, I was able to easily get a spot at the White Rock City park as it’s a first come- first served type park.  A credit card payment station lets one pay for one night at a time.  White Rock is half way between Las Alamos and Bandelier National Park (approx. 12 miles) so it’s a great location to explore the area.

views leading into Los Alamos

I had not planned on staying in this area for more than two days, but after finding out that I can stay at the city park for up to 14 days, I’ll most likely be here for 4 full days.  What a stunning part of New Mexico as Los Alamos, White Rock and surrounding communities are all on top of mesas and plateaus with deep canyons surrounding each section.  The drive over to Bandelier also traverses the top of mesas eventually descending dramatically down into the mile deep canyon.  Los Alamos National Labs is actually interspersed throughout these mesas and canyons with the largest concentration of labs in the town itself.  As I drive over to Bandelier, I see a few of those Los Alamos Lab outposts doing research into nanotechnology, super computing, space sciences and even climate change.  What a contrast between the atom science labs and the history of Ancestral Pueblo People who have lived in this region for over 10,000 years.

looking into the canyon, Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier is one of those sites that brings awe to the visitor.  Realizing the complex society that had developed in this canyon.  The large 400 room circular adobe structure with a couple kivas inside the large central open area.  An 800 foot stretch of stone adobe homes hugging the sides of the canyon walls.  Reaching 3 and 4 stories high.  A good water source, farming became a way of life including the raising of turkeys…

Tuft, a soft volcanic rock formation


part of a circular pueblo

During busy times of the year, one picks up a shuttle bus for the drive into the park from White Rock.  I was able to drive into the park as it was the day before the Memorial Day weekend crowds would arrive.  I particularly enjoyed the numerous National park building that were built in the 1930’s by the CCC’s at which time the road was first built into the park.  One of the Rangers called it Park-a-techure.  A most appropriate name for the wonderful architecture in our National Parks.

reminds me of the Flintstones

notice the horizontal post holes, that's where adobe structures and floors
were built up to 3 stories high against the walls

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Just down the road another 15 miles or so I went to another stunning site.  In 2000 the U.S. Government purchased Valles Caldera National Preserve.  It is one of 7 of the largest extinct volcanoes in the world.  As of October 1st the transition to the National Park system will be complete.  It’s noted for having a large elk herd within the caldera though the day I drove over there, I did not see any.  After all it covers over 95,000 acres of caldera pastures, forests and surrounding lava domes.  I took a guide tour of just a small portion of the preserve, learning about the geology, ancient history and ranching development through the years.  It was awesome just to see the expansive scenery, original ranch houses and that great caldera so visible from highway 4 and the interior dirt roads that we traveled on.  The present caldera was formed after a final massive volcanic eruption blew and then the center collapsed forming this shallow bowl landscape with rounded dome mountain ranges formed by lava domes being pushed upwards.  Fishing is permitted in the back country of the preserve, with a limit on the number of people and vehicles permitted to travel the single lane dirt roads through the park.

Valles Caldera

Ponderosa Pines

On the way back, I took the shortcut (501) through the Los Alamos National Laboratory property.  I had to show my ID before being permitted to drive through this restricted area and then into Los Alamos.  If you come here on weekends, be aware that although all of the museums are open, many of the restaurants are closed.  Only remaining open when the labs are open for business.  It’s a great place to visit and only 35 miles from Santa Fe.  The Bradbury Science Museum is a must and I understand they are working on opening some of the National Laboratory buildings as museums as well in the future.

a portion of the caldera

caldera valley, once was a lake as well

remains of a movie set for "the Buffalo Gals"

This area would be a great place to visit during the summer months as it is between 7,500 and 8,000 in elevation.

What a grand area to tour.  Enjoy your travels where ever they may lead you.

More photos on Picasa 

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